A day after Linux creator Linus Torvalds publicly questioned the authenticity of Sun Microsystems's interest in serving the open-source community, Sun Chief Executive Officer and President Jonathan Schwartz invited Torvalds for a sit-down over dinner to discuss how Sun and the overseers of the Linux kernel can join forces.
"I wanted you to hear this from me directly," Schwartz wrote in an entry on his blog. "We want to work together, we want to join hands and communities -- we have no intention of holding anything back, or pulling patent nonsense. And to prove the sincerity of the offer, I invite you to my house for dinner."
Schwartz was defending Sun against comments Torvalds made in a post Tuesday on the Linux Kernel Mailing List. Torvalds suggested that Sun is keeping some of the more interesting features of its OpenSolaris open-source project -- such as ZFS, a file system in Sun's OpenSolaris Unix OS that is generating a lot of buzz -- close to the vest because the company doesn't want to help Linux, which has hurt Sun's position in the market.
Schwartz begged to differ that Sun is punishing the Linux community for how commodity servers running the OS trumped Sun's Solaris-based hardware after the dot-com bust, a phenomenon that eventually led Sun to release Solaris as an open-source project.
"Did the Linux community hurt Sun? No, not a bit. It was the companies that leveraged their work," Schwartz wrote. "I draw a very sharp distinction -- even if our competition is conveniently reckless. They like to paint the battle as Sun vs. the community, and it's not. Companies compete, communities simply fracture."
Torvalds also took issue with the fact that Sun has not released OpenSolaris under the GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2), which currently governs Linux. The license for OpenSolaris is the Community Development and Distribution License, which Sun created based on the Mozilla Public License.
However, Schwartz is leaning toward supporting GPL Version 3 (GPLv3), which should be released in its final version in the next few weeks, as an option for OpenSolaris and other Sun open-source projects before GPLv2, which Torvalds prefers. In fact, the differences between GPLv2 and v3 have caused a public rift between Torvalds and other key members of the open-source community.
"We love where the FSF's GPL3 is headed," Schwartz wrote. He cited a "variety of mechanical reasons" why it would be difficult to license OpenSolaris under GPLv2, and insisted it has "nothing to do with being afraid of the community.
"Why does open sourcing take so long? Because we're starting from products that exist, in which a diversity of contributors and licensors/licensees have rights we have to negotiate," Schwartz wrote. "Indulge me when I say it's different than starting from scratch. I would love to go faster, and we are all doing everything under our control to accelerate progress ... It's also a delicate dance to manage this transition while growing a corporation."
Torvalds in his post seemed unlikely to buy such an argument. "To Sun, a GPLv3-only release would actually let them look good, and still keep Linux from taking their interesting parts, and would allow them to take at least parts of Linux without giving anything back (ahh, the joys of license fragmentation)," he wrote.
As to whether Torvalds would accept Schwartz's offer, he joked in an e-mail Wednesday that while he does not get to the San Francisco Bay area very often, "free food is a big draw." Torvalds lives in Portland, Oregon.
He also said that though his post was not strictly meant for Schwartz, he appreciates the executive's response, especially his assertion that Sun would not seek patent fees for ZFS, since some in the Linux community wanted to port the file system to Linux.
Still, Torvalds' mistrust of Sun's motives in the open-source industry is deep-rooted, though he remains optimistic that Sun and the Linux community still can come together on common interests.
"I'll just have to say that I still have the old Java licensing mess fresh in my memory, and I'll take a 'wait and see' attitude to what actually comes out of Sun," he wrote, saying he is the kind of person who "would rather be pleasantly surprised by people's (and companies') actions, than expect too much and be disappointed."
Robert McMillan in San Francisco contributed to this report.